It was two from three in the Championship for SBO on Boxing Day as Aston Villa and Huddersfield landed the odds to secure a reasonable profit from the day’s football. The big shock of the round was Sheffield Wednesday’s excellent 1-0 win at Newcastle, which allowed Brighton to surge clear at the top of the table with a 3-0 victory against QPR.
The Seagulls were unfortunate to slip out of the top two at the death last season, and the footballing gods turned against them in the play offs. Four injuries in the semi final away leg at Sheffield Wednesday saw them end the game with ten men and fall to a 2-0 defeat from which they couldn’t recover in the second leg. This season saw Chris Hughton’s men have an average start, but a sustained run of 15 games unbeaten (11 wins and 4 draws) has taken them to the summit. They face a home match on Friday night against a relegation-threatened Cardiff.
Second placed Newcastle were most pundits idea of a banker to win the division, and they remain just two points behind Brighton, and six clear of third placed Reading. The Magpies are in good stead despite the loss to Sheffield Wednesday, and have a good opportunity to bounce back against Notts Forest on Friday night. There’s also a modicum of revenge at play after Forest beat Newcastle 2-1 back in early December – Newcastle having two men sent off in the first half.
The Championship fixture list is arranged such that this weekend’s games are the reverse of the games played at the start of December, and Derby County – one of the Championship’s in-form sides – face a rematch against the Wigan side they beat 1-0 away from home just five games ago. The Rams are another good thing on Saturday, in a week of ‘home bankers’.
Brighton v Cardiff
First up it’s Brighton, who are rated -149 with Betfred to get the better of struggling Cardiff.
When Neil Warnock took the Cardiff job in October he talked about ending his career with a big challenge at a club with potential, but more recently he’s spoken of the need for new signings in January to avoid a relegation battle. Unfortunately for the Bluebirds, they are already in that battle – sitting in 20th place just four points above the drop zone.
Cardiff have won only one game in the last six – 2-1 at home against Wolves – but have dropped points against Ipswich, Barnsley and Brentford since holding Brighton to a 0-0 draw at home back at the start of the month. That was also their only clean sheet in 12 matches, but they’ll do very well to repeat the trick away at the rampant Seagulls.
Brighton’s 3-0 win over QPR on Boxing Day was their 5th win in six at the AMEX Stadium, a 1-1 draw with Aston Villa the only blip. The Seagulls have kept four clean sheets in those six games, and have beaten good sides in Norwich and Leeds during the sequence. They should have too much attacking prowess for a vulnerable Cardiff side, and can continue to lead the table into the New Year.
Newcastle v Nottingham Forest
The Magpies were beaten by a superb Sheffield Wednesday display on Boxing Day, but have done little wrong over the course of the season in terms of results. They’ve won 16 of 23 Championship games this season – more than any other club – but six defeats compared to Brighton’s two losses, is the reason they sit 2nd at this stage.
However, the Magpies are the division’s top goal scorers, and they take on a Forest team which has conceded more than anyone apart from bottom club Rotherham. The Nottingham club are 18th on the ladder, six points clear of the bottom three, but in danger of being dragged into a relegation battle. They are unlikely to improve their defensive record against a strong Newcastle side which is on home soil and will be keen to put the Boxing Day result behind them.
Derby v Wigan
Finally, Derby look like a good thing on Saturday to do the double over Wigan at -161 with Betway.
The Rams have been on a resurgent run since Steve McClaren returned to the hot seat, and Darren Bent’s penalty in the 1-0 win over Birmingham gave them an 8th victory in nine matches. One of those was a 1-0 win at Wigan back in early December, and there is no reason why they can’t repeat the trick on home ground.
Wigan are currently 23rd in the table and five points from safety. The Latics have lost the last five on the spin – starting with the 1-0 reverse to Derby and culminating in the 3-2 defeat at Rotherham on Boxing Day. That was a particularly damaging result as Rotherham are the only club underneath Wigan on the ladder, and when a team loses relegation six-pointers, alarm bells start to ring.
This Derby side is now on the cusp of the play offs, and the winning run is expected to continue on Saturday.
Brighton to beat Cardiff
Friday 30th December, 19:45 GMT
Newcastle to beat Nottingham Forest
Friday 30th December, 19:45 GMT
Derby to beat Wigan
Saturday 31st December, 15:00 GMT